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What is WinPE


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Hi all,

I have a copy of BartPE at home and I find it very useful for system recovery purposes, but I have looked at some links on Google and looked at the WinPE FAQ on this site and the question I have is....

What is the main purpose of WinPE? Like I say. I used it a few times for system recovery situations, but besides that I can't really find the purpose of it?

Also, what the differences between versions...For example, what is the difference between the BartPE and the official Microsoft WinPE release?

I can't understand either, why Microsoft keeps PE such a guarded secret? I know it has some features which allow you to access parts of the system you wouldn't normally be albe to do so, by bypassing ACL's but is there something about PE I'm missing?

Edited by Boyband
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As you probably know, many geeks and nerds use Windows XP. Windows XP is fairly complicated, and this confused many people who weren't geek-oriented. Athletic people such as jocks and triathletes were expecially confused by Windows XP.

So Microsoft developed Windows PE for these more athletic people. The name is derived from something these people would feel comfortable with - PE class in highschool.


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I'm not really sure if the above poster was just trying to be funny, or what... I don't think it was a very good answer either way, as it was neither funny nor factual.

In a nutshell, Microsoft has only provided a single method for people to boot a machine on an inexpensive non-PXE network and load an operating system from a server. This way was DOS, using old hokey floppies or bootable CD's. Dos is slow, it has a massive list of limitations, and a lot of recent tools just don't work on it any more. But since this was essentially the only way to get a machine on the network (again, in a non-PXE environment) it means that Microsoft had to support it, and any NIC hardware manufacturer had to build dos-based network card drivers to support it too.

This sucks, and Microsoft finally relented. Windows PE is essentially their replacement for all DOS boot disk needs -- it can get your machine on the network and provide a 32-bit Windows compatible base for your various tools. It also provides a solid and much faster bsae for deploying other modern Windows OS'es.

When I first moved our company from DOS-based boot disks to Windows PE, I received a lot of negative response about the boot times. Common complaints were: "Dos took like 10 seconds to boot my R50 to the network; PE takes like two minutes! Why are we going backwards?" and "DOS did everything I needed to do, why aren't you using it anymore -- Windows sucks cause I can't do stuff that I usually do"

The reality was quite different, and it didn't take long for the technicians to see it. Pulling down our standard 2GB sysprepped XP image within DOS took about 15 minutes on a Thinkpad R50 with the gigabit network adapter, a gigabit network and only one logical (and gigabit-connected) network hop from the workstation to the hosting server (an HP DL380 with five 15,000 RPM U320 SCSI drives). Average speeds under DOS were ~230mb/min.

Windows PE on the exact same piece of equipment would pull down that image in two and a half minutes. Average download speeds under PE? About 1400mb/min. It doesn't take a genius to realize that a two minute boot time is more than forgivable with a 600+% increase in download speed. Upload speeds were also improved, on the order of 250% and more depending on hardware config.

It also paved the way for far more automation than was available in DOS, great examples: WMI queries for automatically detecting what HAL files to swap out on our XP sysprepped image, HTA application for launching our "build-o-matic" process that lays down our base application packages, far enhanced featuresets for automated ghosting to/from DVD/CD drives, offline defrag and checkdisk of NTFS volumes, you name it.

Preinstallation Environment is only getting better in Version 2.0, which is what you're using if you DVD-boot your Vista CD.

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Additionally, I think the primary usage of WinPE is system recovery, and what does "Official release" of WinPE means, is not important, IMHO, WinPE is originally for OEM customers.

above posters are very nice. and this "not pure technical" topic is interesting.

I touch WinPE in 2003, by accident. In fact, I'm doing R&D job in a system recovery company, and in a meeting by then, someone talks about WinPE, and I asked my boss:"What is WinPE? is it WinCE?". In a moment I feel quite ashamed, and I swear, to study WinPE hard.

by now, I agree the above friend, that WinPE2.0(Vista) is much better to use, especially for network connections.

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Other than support for IPv6, I don't feel the network connection is the big enhancement for Winpe 2.0. The current version of WinPE 1.6 has quite sufficient network capabilities; I have been able to maintain consistently faster transfer speeds within WinPE than I could in any other full operating system.

I have used a pair of Dell GX620's both loaded with WinPE to sustain more than 930mbit continuous network transmit speed between the two devices. I can't do that under XP under any circumstances...

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Of course default XP policy is to reserve at least 20% of bandwidth.

You can still rip out the QoS component to bypass that reservation, but it still doesn't support a lot of the hardware offload capabilities of modern network cards. The best I've been able to sustain on a tweaked and scrubbed XP Pro image is around ~800mbit on a gig connection, gig Intel Pro/1000MT network cards on a CSA bus and 9000-byte frames. I think the second time I tried a land-speed record with PE I was able to sustain 930mbit, and just didn't try any further.

Using a Server 2003 base for your PE image also helps, as you can take advantage of several additional features that XP just doesn't come with. Great examples: NDIS 5.2, NetDMA, TCP Chimney, Selective ACK, among a ton of others.

Edited by Albuquerque
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